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Starbucks has launched its first in-store AR experience in China

Customers who whip out their phone inside Shanghai’s new Starbucks Reserve Roastery can explore hidden worlds. It is, apparently, “like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka”.

At Starbucks’ newly opened Reserve Roastery in Shanghai is a two-storey copper cask decorated with almost 3,000 hand-carved stamps. And when customers hold their phone up to them, they reveal exciting new worlds. 

The stamps, thanks to augmented reality (AR), allow people to look inside the vessel. They’ll be able to see newly roasted coffee beans dropping in before, after a brief rest, they fly through the vessel’s copper pipes en route to the coffee bars.

“It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka,” said Emily Chang, Starbucks China’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “It’s one thing to imagine a fully integrated in-store and digital experience, which brings together the impressive scale of the Shanghai Roastery with the highest quality small-lot coffee beans. It’s quite another to watch the AR experience get built, and come to life.”

Starbucks’ AR worlds – and there are others beyond the cask, which Starbucks is keeping under wraps – are accessed via the Roastery’s app. The more worlds customers explore, the more virtual badges they’ll collect.

“It’s coffee as theatre,” said Echo Jiang, the Roastery’s director of customer experience.